NEW CANAAN — For shoppers looking to spend their time and money outside of a shopping mall this holiday, there is no shortage of ways to invest.

One is through the New Canaan Community Foundation, which works with more than 70 local organizations and helps its donors ensure their time and money goes to the right place.

“We’re here to be sort of partners in philanthropy. For charitable advice, we can pinpoint kind of a couple of organizations that folks may be interested in giving to. Or, because we have good relationships with those organizations, we might know who’s taking volunteers,” said Lauren Patterson, who took over as foundation president and CEO in October.

According to Patterson, 100 percent of money received during the holidays will be used in grants issued in the spring.

“We help people pool their resources from all over the community, so lots of families and businesses come to us. They give a gift, and then through an annual process we make grants to nonprofits in the community,” Patterson said. More than $1 million was awarded last year to nonprofits that were vetted by a group of foundation volunteers — a group that Patterson said is looking for more volunteers.

The foundation has compiled a list of organizations conducting holiday drives in Fairfield County. They include Filling in the Blanks’ third annual Holiday Backpack Drive, Inspirica’s Holiday Gift Collection, Domus Kids’ Angel Family Program, Health and Human Services’ Holiday Wishlist, Toys-for-Tots, Pura Vida for Children’s Holiday Mailbox, the Christmas Tree and Wreath Sale for Charity in Kiwanis Park and the New Canaan Food Pantry at St. Mark’s Church.

For her part, Carol McDonald, director of Health and Human Services at Vine Cottage and head of the food pantry, listed several ways in which people can give back to their neighbors.

More Information

Food Pantry needs:

Kids drink boxes

Salad dressing

Peanut butter


Canned tuna

Canned chicken

Canned tomatoes of any kind

Canned fruit

Pancake mix

Maple syrup


Through Health and Human Services, residents can donate to a warm-up fund that helps pay heating costs for families that cannot afford it over the winter. Residents can also help their neighbors stay warm by donating new and used coats, hats, gloves and scarves. A Secret Santa program ensures children receive Christmas gifts.

“We have residents in the community that are qualified for the Secret Santa program. We get wish lists for them, then we try to confidentially send out a form with the family number — no names — the child’s age and sex and two wishes per child that we try to keep around $50 or so. Then the donor wraps the gifts and brings them back by Dec. 16,” McDonald said. The program includes more than 75 New Canaan children this year.

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach to giving, Patterson said the foundation has resources to find a good fit for volunteering.

“In some instances someone wants to volunteer and pick a gift for a family and wrap it and deliver it. In other instances, people have great professional skills and they want to volunteer their time in a different way. So we are happy to do that matchmaking, too,” Patterson said.

Whatever a person’s preference, Patterson said the most important thing is that residents continue to donate their time and money to support local organizations.

“A lot of people give to us because they say that New Canaan is such a special place. And we know that it doesn’t just happen like that by accident, that we have to keep reinvesting,” Patterson said.

For information on the New Canaan Community Foundation, 111 Cherry St., call 203-966-0231 or visit

For information on Vine Cottage, 61 Main St., call 203-594-3076 or visit